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City, unions agree on new contract

(Published August 13, 2001)

By CHRIS SMITH

Staff Writer

City officials expect to complete formalities by the end of the current fiscal year to implement a new $61.3 million compensation agreement reached with a coalition of labor unions representing the majority of wage grade and service employees of the D.C. government.

Union leaders and Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced the successful conclusion of 13 months of negotiations for the three-year compensation agreement at an Aug. 9 press conference at One Judiciary Square. The agreement now must be ratified by the membership of each union and approved by the D.C. City Council and the financial control board.

Union representatives said they expect their rank-and-file members to ratify the agreement soon, but the city council will not formally approve the agreement until it returns from its recess in September.

Under the agreement, approximately 9,000 union-represented employees will receive a base wage increase of 4 percent each year for the next three years, a $500 bonus, an additional day of leave and the opportunity to participate in pilot projects that reward high performance.

The agreement ends what Mayor Wiliams described as a "mess" caused years ago when the city did not invest in key priorities.

"The base wage increase is well-deserved for the workers," he said. "Workers are a key investment, and we have to invest in our people. They have gone through some of the worst times in the city."

Currently, the District’s wage-earning workforce under the direct personnel authority of the mayor includes approximately 18,000 employees, each averaging an income of $44,000 per year, according to city officials. Labor unions represent almost 13,500 employees or about 75 percent of these employees. The District’s total workforce numbers just over 30,000, officials said.

Despite the new agreement, D.C. government workers will still be 10 percent behind the federal pay scale.

"We knew we could not get to the federal parity in three years," Mayor Williams said. "From a budget aspect, this could not be accomplished."

George T. Johnson, chief negotiator for the D.C. Coalition of Labor, said the agreement between city officials and D.C. workers guarantees residents the best service possible.

"Reaching this agreement signifies the rebirth of labor relations in the District of Columbia," said Johnson, who is also the administrator of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 20. "Today we are letting citizens know change is here in the District. We are going to make sure every citizen gets every benefit they are supposed to receive from the city."

Mayor Williams said the agreement would provide services citizens expect. "Our workers want to be part of a winning team that our city is proud to support. Everybody is better off in the city with this agreement."

According to Mayor Williams, the agreement also will emphasize performance. The development of the Performance Incentive Pilot Program included in the agreement will recognize employees’ productivity through accomplishment of established goals and objectives, special acts toward the accomplishment of agency initiatives and demonstrated leadership.

One reporter present at the press conference questioned the mayor’s political agenda, noting that Johnson and his union endorsed Councilman Kevin Chavous, D-Ward 7, in the 1998 Democratic mayoral primary, and asked if Mayor Williams was trying to garner the union’s support for the 2002 election.

The mayor did not respond to the question, but Johnson said it is premature to say whom the union will endorse in the upcoming elections.

"Politics are just politics," Johnson said. "When we get closer to the election we will take a look at what the mayor has done to help us achieve our goals. In three years Mayor Williams has grown as an individual. We have to judge him by what he does, not what he says."

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator